Hundreds of Protests in 36 Countries Demand Release of Arctic 30
Today, as the Arctic 30 face their 30th day of imprisonment in Russia, nearly 10,000 people are taking to the streets at more than 100 events in 36 countries to call for their immediate release, according to a Greenpeace press release.
Last night, the grounds of the Greenpeace office in Murmansk, Russia, were broken into. CCTV footage, released today by Greenpeace International, shows six men in balaclavas scaling a fence and entering the grounds. A mock cage—which was to be used to highlight the injustice of the Arctic 30's imprisonment during a solidarity protest in the city—was stolen.
As global solidarity activities kicked off, bail hearings began for four more activists: Faiza Oulahsen of the Netherlands, Anne Mie Roer Jensen of Denmark, Alexandre Paul of Canada and Alexandra Harris of the UK. Bail requests for both Paul and Harris were denied; the other cases are ongoing.
"Alex is a caring, sensitive person, who cares for the environmental future of the planet," Harris’ mother said today. "She was on board the Arctic Sunrise as part of a peaceful protest, in international waters, in the radio room doing her job and we hope and pray that the Russian authorities will let our daughter come home to us soon."
In September, 28 activists, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer, were charged with piracy by the Russian authorities following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Gazprom oil platform in the Pechora Sea. Gazprom plans to start production in the first quarter of 2014, in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law. If convicted of the charges of piracy, the offense carries a maximum 15 year jail term. The Arctic 30 could be detained until Nov. 24 while authorities investigate the allegations against them.
This morning, according to Greenpeace, the non-executive Chairman of Shell told media in Finland that the Finnish activist imprisoned in Russia, Sini Saarela, should be released. This is significant because Shell has a close business relationship with Gazprom in the Russian Arctic, “This message should be coming from Shell’s CEO Peter Voser," said Jim Footner of Greenpeace. "He should break his company’s ties with Gazprom and do everything he can to ensure the Arctic 30 are freed."
Global protests today include:
- A protest at the base of Mount Everest with activists from Greenpeace East Asia.
- In Mexico City, protesters are visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s monument and will build a prison cell around it.
- In the Netherlands, people are erecting a giant cage in the centre of Groningen, the hometown of one imprisoned activist and the sister city of Murmansk, Russia.
- In Bangkok, people are gathering in Wat Phra Kaeo, one of the most iconic temples of Thailand, where volunteers shaped the words Free the Arctic 30 using flower bouquets.
- In Bangalore, people are gathering in Freedom Park, where a prison once stood.
- In Germany, a 30-hour vigil is taking place with more than 100 people, on top of the ongoing solidarity vigil in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin that started on Sept. 19.
- A 24-hour sit-in vigil is happening in the central square of Naples, Italy, the home city of one of the Arctic 30 detainees.
Yesterday, eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates have written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin offering their support to the Arctic 30. They write in their letter:
Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise. An oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on Earth. The impact of a spill on communities living in the Arctic, and on already vulnerable animal species, would be devastating and long lasting. The risks of such an accident are ever present, and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate. Equally important is the contribution of Arctic oil drilling to climate change. Climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are paying the price for developed countries’ failure to act.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureates who sent the letter are:
- South African Bishop Desmond Tutu
- Northern Irish peace campaigner Betty Williams
- Former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez
- U.S. peace campaigner Jody Williams
- Liberian peace campaigner Leymah Gbowee
- Yemeni peace campaigner Tawakkol Karman
- Guatemalan social reformist Rigoberta Menchu Tum
- Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire
- Iranian lawyer and former judge Shirin Ebadi
- Former President of East Timor Jose Ramos Horta
- Argentine community organizer Adolpho Perez Esquivel
In a letter to a journalist, published today in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, Oulahsen writes of being held “in a dirty cell, alone, isolated from the rest,” only able to “catch a glimpse of other Russian prisoners in the corridor.”
“Once in a while a rat crawls across the floor," she said. "I’ve lost weight and am not sleeping too well, but I am still holding my head high.”
She complains of having been denied the right to call home and not receiving most of the books and letters people are sending her. “I crave letters from my family, friends and colleagues,” Oulahsen continued. She also says the highlight of her day is the exercise hour, when she “walks around in a dark concrete space of about five by five meters, where you’re lucky if you can see the sky through the cracks in the rotten and leaky roof.”
“It is now 30 days since our ship was seized and our 30 friends and colleagues were detained," Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said. "They now face a charge of piracy—an absurd charge that carries a maximum 15 year jail sentence."
“The Arctic 30 were standing up for all of us, defending a fragile environment and a climate in crisis and now we must stand with them. Their detention is an attack against every single person who has ever been willing to raise their voice to demand a better future for themselves and their children. Now these 30 people are prisoners of conscience and we are all responsible for their fate."
“Greenpeace does not think it is above the law, but those 30 brave men and women are not pirates and this charge is a clear attempt to deter peaceful protest," Naidoo continued. "We are here today to show our solidarity with the Arctic 30 and defend the right to peaceful protest. We call for their immediate release.”
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6bd9fda1316965a9ba24dd60fd9cc34d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3KaMnkmf0tc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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